Ready in 45 minutes
I call this my "everything" gumbo. It's a bit unusual in that the chicken stock is also infused with a seafood flavor from the shrimp shells and heads, and that it contains chicken, sausage and seafood. If you want a more elegant-looking gumbo (rather than this version, which is rather rustic), remove the chicken from the bones, cut into chunks and add the meat back to the gumbo; also, instead of using whole crabs that you have to crack, omit them and add a pound and a half of good white crabmeat along with the shrimp near the end of cooking.
Top-ranked recipe named "Lew's Gumbo du Monde"
Remove the skin from the chicken and chop into 3-4 inch pieces, making sure to cut through and expose the bones.Brown the chicken parts and bones in a skillet with oil, or in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes.
Put the chicken in the stockpot with the water and bring slowly to a simmer. Periodically skim off any scum that forms. Let this simmer for at least three, and preferably four hours. It is this long simmering process that extracts the maximum flavor from the chicken meat and bones, as well as the natural gelatin from the bones. When refrigerated, a good chicken stock will be clear and gelatinous.
Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Place the peppercorns, parsley sprigs and dried herbs into a 4-inch square piece of cheesecloth or large tea ball (making what's called a sachet d'epices) and tie it into a little sack; add the sack to the stock (you can tie the sack closed with some twine and tie the long end of the twine to the handle of the pot; this makes the bag easier to retrieve.) Simmer for one more hour, then add the shrimp shells and heads. Simmer an additional 30 minutes.
Remember that during the simmering process,it's best not to stir the stock. The end result will be much clearer if it is not agitated while simmering.
Strain thoroughly; the best way to do this is to ladle the stock out and pour it through a strainer which has been lined with a couple of layers of damp cheesecloth. If you're using the stock immediately, skim off as much fat as you can with a fat skimmer or a piece of paper towel,otherwise cool the stock right away by placing the container into an ice-water-filled sink, stirring to bring the hot liquid from the center to the sides of the container. Don't just put hot stock in the refrigerator; it won't cool enough to prevent possible multiplication of harmful bacteria. (A neat trick I learned recently -- fill Ziploc freezer bags with water and freeze them, then place the bags of ice into the stock; this will cool the stock without diluting it!) To defat the stock easily, refrigerate so that the fat solidifies on the surface,then skim off.
Makes about 5 quarts of stock. Use it all for this gumbo recipe.If you want extra, double it and freeze the rest.
Blend thoroughly in a heavy skillet and cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring CONSTANTLY. BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO BURN IT!! If you see black specks in the roux, dump it out and start over. Keep cooking and stirring until the roux gets darker and darker. It's best to use a very heavy cast iron skillet for roux-making. With a good cast iron Dutch oven or skillet, you can get a beautiful dark roux in only about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with Creole seasoning and brown in the oven. Slice the sausage and brown, pouring off all the fat (especially if you're using fresh Creole hot sausage).
Sauté the onions, green onions, bell pepper and celery if you haven't already added them to the roux, and add to the stock. Add the chicken and sausage(s). Add the bay leaves and Creole seasoning (or ground peppers) to taste and stir. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer; let simmer for about 45 minutes. Keep tasting and adjusting seasonings as needed.
Add the okra and cook another 30 minutes or so. Make sure that the "ropiness" or "stringiness" from the okra is gone, add the parsley, crab halves and claws (if you're using them). Cook for another 15 minutes,then add the shrimp and crabmeat. Give it another 6-8 minutes or so, until the shrimp are just done,turning pink. Be very careful not to overcook the shrimp; adding the shrimp should be the very last step.
If there is any fat on the surface of thegumbo, try to skim off as much of it as possible.
Serve generous amounts in bowls over about 1/2 cup of hot rice -- claws, shells, bones and all (if you've made the original "rustic"version). Remember that the rice goes in the bowl first, and it is not an optional step,despite the trend among some New Orleans restaurants to serve a riceless gumbo.
You may, if you like, sprinkle a small amount of gumbo filé in your individual serving for a little more flavor; just remember that if you're making a filé gumbo, it should be added to the pot off the fire for its proper thickening action.